When you start learning about weight loss, you see the word “protein” come up a lot. And while we are familiar with the term, not many people actually know what it is and understand the important role it plays in weight loss.
What Does Protein Do For Your Body?
The word comes from the Greek word protos, which means first, and points to the critical role it plays. Proteins are groups of chemicals which do many things: they allow the body to send signals so you can see, hear, think and move. They help your body make other chemical compounds that help digest food, create new cells, and build muscle. Protein also helps keep you fuller longer, which in turn is perfect when you are trying to cut back on calories but don’t want to be bothered by hunger pangs.
Where Do We Get Our Protein From?
Since it is an essential nutrient which means your body doesn’t make it, you must get it from food. Protein that is found in other animals is similar to our own protein; our body recognizes it more readily and incorporates it more easily. Nutritionists call this type of protein ‘high quality protein’. Meat, fish, poultry, eggs, and dairy products fall under this category, but eggs are considered the most useful protein to the human body.
You can also get protein from plants sources like grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds, but those sources have smaller amounts and are not as easily assimilated. Because these sources are incomplete, you need to eat foods from other categories like grains and meats to make sure you get the complete set of proteins your body is looking for.
Why It Matters For Weight Loss?
Recent studies in weight loss point to the important role of protein. When we diet, we lose weight but often times we are losing exactly what we don’t need to lose: muscle mass and bone mass. We just want to lose the fat! Scientists have discovered that eating higher amounts of protein and lower carbohydrates results in diminished appetite and higher metabolism, meaning your body is burning more calories just doing its normal thing. And the weight you are losing is fat, not muscle.
How much protein and what kind of protein should you include? Protein should make up about 30% of your daily calorie intake. Your primary sources should be cottage cheese and eggs. You can also eat red meat, pork, fish and chicken. Be sure to incorporate some at every meal and snack to help with suppressing the appetite and maintaining muscle mass.